Stephen Brend, Project Director of Born Free Ethiopia, comments on wildlife trade issues:
The thinking behind establishing Ensessakotteh, our Wildlife Rescue, Conservation and Education Centre in Ethiopia, was not just to save animals from being kept, often illegally, in appalling conditions. If we are to be truly successful, in addition to saving the individual animals, we also need to stop wildlife trafficking full stop. Recent news suggests we have our work more than cut out for us.
UN forces in Somalia confiscated two lion cubs that were already on a ship leaving the country. Born Free Foundation was prepared to help with their rescue and relocation, but the UN handled the situation and the lions were moved to South Africa. Unfortunately, Somalia is so lawless we have no real idea how many animals pass through there.
We do know, however, there is a huge demand for cheetah cubs in the Middle East. At least 20 have been smuggled from Ethiopia this year – and these are the ones we are aware of. There is no way the already-small wild population can withstand losses like that, so the situation is critical.
We are continuing to work with the Wildlife Conservation Authority in Ethiopia to try to increase the effectiveness of law enforcement both within the country and at border points. As the rescue of the four little cheetahs in January shows, the system can work. We just need it to work more often.
Born Free Ethiopia is currently raising funds to rescue four more large, male lions and bring them to Ensessakotteh – find out more and help here.